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Thread: When a prospective agent asks what else you are working on, how much should you tell them?

  1. #1
    New Fish; Learning About Thick Skin
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    When a prospective agent asks what else you are working on, how much should you tell them?

    Hi all,

    I've seen a lot of folks say that when you're talking to an agent on the phone, sometimes they will ask what else you are working on.

    If you do have another work in progress, how much should you share? Should you say, "Oh I've got another mystery novel in the works." Or should you be like, "Oh I've got a mystery novel in the works where this guy does this thing, and then it turns out the guy he was going to kill was his brother and then they set out together to solve the mystery and then in the end it was his brother all along, and I'm about 1/4th of the way through the writing but it's fully outlined and I could probably finish it within eight months?" Etc.

    Thanks.

  2. #2
    Such a nasty woman SuperModerator Old Hack's Avatar
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    Tell them you're writing, and tell them the short pitch you've worked out (if you've done that). If not, summarise it as concisely as you can.

  3. #3
    Not as sweet as you think Aggy B.'s Avatar
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    If you are like me, you might have a dozen projects in various stages of completion. I would 1) just mention the 1 or 2 that are closest to being finished or that you feel are your strongest work and 2) try and write up a brief pitch (I.E. "I'm working on a mystery that's about family and the choices we make and I have about 20k words written so far and the rest is outlined and should be finished by X month of Y year).

    My agent did not ask me what else I was working on, but he was also asking for intense revisions. (So he may have wanted to focus on the work at hand and not have me distracted with other projects.) But, whenever I start something new I send him a few opening chapters plus a pitch so he can see how I envision selling it. (Even if we change the pitch later, we still have a starting point so he can consider who he might send it to.) So, if you start working on your pitching skills now you will find that useful in later interactions regardless of whether the phone call involves a discussion of other work.
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  4. #4
    New Fish; Learning About Thick Skin
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    Quote Originally Posted by Aggy B. View Post

    My agent did not ask me what else I was working on, but he was also asking for intense revisions. (So he may have wanted to focus on the work at hand and not have me distracted with other projects.) But, whenever I start something new I send him a few opening chapters plus a pitch so he can see how I envision selling it. (Even if we change the pitch later, we still have a starting point so he can consider who he might send it to.) So, if you start working on your pitching skills now you will find that useful in later interactions regardless of whether the phone call involves a discussion of other work.
    Thanks for this excellent advice. My agent didn't ask what else I was working on at first either; we had some big revisions ahead of us on the first book. Later I told her a bit about the follow up but it was in a conversation about how the first book and me as a writer should be marketed, what kind of stuff I want to be known for. Since my stories cross genres, this was important. We were able to talk about how the follow up could be angled to fit the (I hate this term) "brand."

  5. #5
    Cat wrangler Jeneral's Avatar
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    During my calls with agents, they wanted to know what else I was working on, but it was a brief part of the conversation. The book they offered on was a romance, so I basically let them know I had some other romances in the pipeline to write, and very briefly pitched an urban fantasy I'm working on too, just so they were aware that I needed an agent who could work with both genres.

    After I was signed and my book was out on submission, I asked her how she wanted to hear about new projects. At her suggestion, I sent her short pitches on the projects I had in mind, and she basically ranked them in order of what she thought would work the best for the market. This gave me a good direction for what to write next.
    MS0: Terrible ghost story. Trunked, to be mined later for decent descriptive phrases.
    MS.5: Florida Suburban Fantasy. On Hold till after some kissing is written.
    MS1: Contemporary romance with a Russian accent. Paused.
    MS2: Fake engagement plus tattoos, cake, and kissing. On hold but still viable.
    MS3:
    Kissing at the Renaissance Faire. Drafting.
    MS4: Kissing at the Renaissance Faire Book 2, Electric Boogaloo. Thinking about.
    MS5: Kissing at the Renaissance Faire Book 3. Oh no Jen what is your brain doing.

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  6. #6
    There is no one answer-- it's a conversation between two people, and should flow naturally. They may ask further questions and you may end up telling them ALL about it, or you might give them a couple sentences and they go, "sounds neat!" and the convo moves on. Have a quick elevator style pitch in mind and then talk more about it if the conversation goes that way.
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  7. #7
    practical experience, FTW
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    I've always found that "the truth" works pretty well in such situations (though I have no experience with an agent asking about other work). I'd recommend a straightforward, concise answer. You don't need to embellish. That might even be a turn-off for some agents.

    caw
    Light thinks it travels faster than anything but it is wrong. No matter how fast light travels it finds the darkness has always got there first, and is waiting for it.

    -- Terry Pratchett

  8. #8
    practical experience, FTW Shoeless's Avatar
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    I got lucky with my MS and my agent, she only had very slight changes for the book but it was essentially ready to go aside from that, so she was very curious about what else I'd been working on. I had a few things going, including a finished middle grade novel (she doesn't represent that), a submission package I was putting together for Image Comics, and a historical fantasy/weird western. I just laid all that out, and she seemed happy with how busy I was keeping myself, even though the middle grade project wasn't one she could help with. The other two, however, were still potentially in her wheelhouse, so yeah, basically when an agent asks what else you've got going, it's really to see whether you two are still closely aligned in terms of future projects.

    If you were primarily a middle grade writer, but then decided to take a break and just whack out a YA or adult genre novel just to see if you could, but your heart was really in MG and THEN you got offered representation for that experiment... yeah, that's where things would get awkward.

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